The Feline Vaccine Protocol
ACVIM 2008
Richard B. Ford, DVM, MS, DACVIM, DACVPM (Hon)
Raleigh, NC, USA

Introduction

The latest update to the AAFP Feline Vaccine Guidelines represents an important milestone in feline vaccination. In addition to the fact that one vaccine listed in the 2000 Guidelines is no longer on the market (Microsporum canis), 3 additional vaccines have been licensed since 2000: Feline Immunodeficiency Vaccine (FIV), the recombinant Feline Leukemia Vaccine, and the virulent systemic (VS) feline calicivirus vaccine. Perhaps one of the most significant changes to the Guidelines is the recommendation that all kittens receive an additional inoculation of core vaccines, beyond the conventional recommendations of 9 and 12 weeks of age, at 16 weeks of age.

Overview of the Feline Vaccine Guidelines

The 2006 Feline Vaccination Guidelines have undergone a comprehensive review by an Advisory Panel made up of veterinarians in private practice as well as specialists in immunology, virology, internal medicine, and veterinary medical law. In addition, this iteration of the Feline Vaccination Guidelines includes representation by experts from Europe and the United Kingdom, as well as North America. The Guidelines were published (JAVMA, 2006), but may still be accessed in their entirety at the AAFP website (http://www.aafponline.org/; search "Practice Guidelines").

The context of the Guidelines includes 14 Sections. Issues on general vaccine-induced immunity, duration of immunity (DOI), vaccine types, and routes of administration are included. In addition, several topics on patient risk factors are addressed. Factors such as breed differences, cattery cats vs. individual household cats, vaccination of immunocompromised (e.g., FeLV+) cats, and cats with a previous history of an adverse vaccine event are considered. With approximately 17 vaccine types available for cats (in the US), and approximately 69 licensed products, the 2006 Feline Guidelines provide information and recommendations on each vaccine type. Additional sections include information similar to that found in the 2006 Canine Vaccine Guidelines, such as medical-legal aspects of vaccination, vaccine licensing requirements (US), vaccine-associated sarcomas (VAS), and information on vaccine "labels" (also called the "package insert").

One significant addition to the 2006 Feline Vaccination Guidelines is a section pertaining to vaccination of cats housed in a shelter environment. This section compliments vaccination guidelines found in the 2006 Canine Vaccine Guidelines on Shelter Vaccination. Several Tables and Appendices provide supplemental information pertaining to vaccination of cats: vaccine handling and storage, vaccine preparation and administration tips, as well as current recommendations on vaccination sites for cats. A summary of Core and Non-Core vaccination recommendations are included below.

Summary of Changes

As is the case with the Canine Vaccine Guidelines, the objective of the 2006 Feline Vaccination Guidelines is to facilitate efforts of veterinarians in developing and implementing a rational vaccination protocol for cats. The Guidelines do not represent vaccination requirements for cats nor are the Guidelines intended to represent a defined protocol. The recommendations and comments provided are based on the best science available today. While the 2006 Feline Vaccination Guidelines do not represent the standard of care for immunizing cats, they do represent A standard of care for the profession.

The Core vaccines designated by the Feline Advisory Panel are panleukopenia (feline parvovirus), herpesvirus-1, and calicivirus. Rabies vaccination, which is required by State law in only about half of the States in the US, is still recommended as a Core vaccine for all cats (justification for this recommendation is based on the fact that, in the US, there have been more cases of rabies confirmed in cats than in dogs each year since 1986). For panleukopenia, herpesvirus, and calicivirus vaccination, initial vaccination at 9 and 12 and 16 weeks is recommended (see Table 1). This is followed by a booster at one year of age then every 3 years thereafter.

Feline leukemia virus (FeLV) vaccination, although classified as Non-Core, is "highly recommended" for all cats through the first year of life. This recommendation is based on the fact that a new kitten/cat intended to be kept indoors only, has a reasonable expectation of 'escaping'...sometimes for days at a time. It is well established that susceptibility to feline leukemia virus (FeLV) infection is greatest in the first year of life. Vaccination of cats over 1 year of age with reasonable risk of exposure to FeLV (e.g., outside cats) is recommended. Most authors would agree that vaccination of adult, indoor (exclusively) cats is not warranted.

Non-Core vaccines (see Table 2) include feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) vaccine, chlamydophylosis (formerly chlamydiosis caused by Chlamydia psittaci), and Bordetella bronchiseptica. The Microsporum canis (ringworm) vaccine, included in the 2000 Feline Vaccine Guidelines, has been removed from the market by the manufacturer and is no longer available. Readers are reminded that although the FIV vaccine will likely remain categorized as Non-Core, a single dose of vaccine is known to produce antibody that cross-reacts with every commercial FIV test on the market today. False-POSITIVE test results may persist for a year or more in vaccinated cats. To date, a reliable test that will consistently distinguish between vaccinated and infected cats simply not available.

In the 2006 Feline Vaccination Guidelines, feline Giardia vaccine and feline infectious peritonitis vaccine are not generally recommended. Available data regarding efficacy of these products does not support routine use of these vaccines in cats in clinical practice. Veterinarians are reminded that despite this classification, the FIP and Giardia vaccines are licensed by the USDA and may be administered in the US.

The introduction of a recombinant FeLV vaccine in 2004 includes the use (required) of a transdermal administration system. This is the only non-adjuvanted FeLV vaccine on the market in the US. The entire 0.25 mL volume of vaccine is administered using a needle-free, air-pressure system. The vaccine has been shown to produce both humoral immunity as well as a cell-mediated immune response. None of the FeLV vaccines licensed in the US cause a false + FeLV test result.

A virulent systemic feline calicivirus vaccine was licensed in 2007 and, therefore, was not addressed in the text of the 2006 AAFP Feline Vaccine Guidelines. However, the Feline Vaccine Advisory Panel has reviewed available data on the disease and the vaccine. A consensus statement has been submitted to AAFP for review. Because the challenge data (autologous challenge only) was limited in scope, the Advisory Panel could not make recommendations regarding the use of this vaccine in household pet cats. Although outbreaks VS-feline calicivirus has been recognized in the US and the UK for over 10 years (predominantly in shelter cats), the prevalence is exceptionally low; there is no evidence to support that the number of cases occurring in the US is increasing.

Table 1. CORE feline vaccines and recommendations for administration.

(based on the 2006 Report of the AAFP Feline Vaccine Advisory Panel)

CORE
vaccines

Primary kitten series
(< 16 weeks)

Primary adult series
(> 16 weeks)

Booster interval

Parvovirus (Panleukopenia)
Herpesvirus-1 and Calicivirus
Modified-Live (non-adjuvanted)
... or ...
Killed (adjuvanted)
(SQ or intranasal administration)

Administer 1 dose as early as 6 weeks of age, then
Every 3 to 4 weeks until 16 weeks of age

Administer 2 doses, 3 to 4 weeks apart

Administer 1 dose one year following completion of the initial series; then
Every 3 years thereafter.
Note: Annual booster of cats against FHV-1 and FCV may be recommended in cats housed in high risk environments.

Rabies
--Recombinant
--non-adjuvanted)
(SQ injection)

Administer 1 dose at 12 to 16 weeks of age.

Administer 1 dose

Annually

Rabies
--Killed--1 Year
--Killed--3 Year
(adjuvanted)
(SQ injection)

Administer 1 dose at 12 to 16 weeks of age.

Administer 1 dose

Administer 1 dose one year following administration of the first dose, then
Every 3 years thereafter.

Note: Requirements for feline rabies vaccination are established by State and/or local statutes and may differ from the recommendations listed above.

Table 2. NON-CORE feline vaccines and recommendations for administration.

(based on the 2006 Report of the AAFP Feline Vaccine Advisory Panel)

NON-CORE
(optional) vaccines

Primary kitten series
(< 16 weeks)

Primary adult series
(> 16 weeks)

Booster interval

Feline Leukemia
--Recombinant
(non-adjuvanted)
(Transdermal administration only)

Administer 2 doses, 3 to 4 weeks apart beginning as early as 12 weeks of age.

Administer 2 doses, 3 to 4 weeks apart.

Annual booster; booster vaccination is not recommended for all cats. Exposure risk should be considered prior to recommending.

Feline Leukemia
--Killed (adjuvanted)
(SQ administration)

Administer 2 doses, 3 to 4 weeks apart beginning as early as 12 weeks of age.

Administer 2 doses, 3 to 4 weeks apart.

Annual booster; booster vaccination is not recommended for all cats. Exposure risk should be considered prior to recommending.

Chlamydophila felis
Avirulent Live
(non-adjuvanted)
(SQ administration)

Administer 2 doses, 3 to 4 weeks apart beginning as early as 12 weeks of age.

Administer 2 doses, 3 to 4 weeks apart.

Annual booster; booster vaccination is not recommended for all cats. Exposure risk should be considered prior to recommending.

Chlamydophila felis
Killed
(adjuvanted)
(SQ administration)

Administer 2 doses, 3 to 4 weeks apart beginning as early as 12 weeks of age.

Administer 2 doses, 3 to 4 weeks apart.

Annual booster; booster vaccination is not recommended for all cats. Exposure risk should be considered prior to recommending.

Feline Immunodeficiency Virus
Killed (adjuvanted)
(SQ administration)

Administration of 3 initial doses is required.
Beginning as early as 8 weeks of age, administer 2 additional doses 2 to 3 weeks apart.

Administration of 3 initial doses is required. Each dose should be administered 2 to 3 weeks apart.

Annual booster; vaccination is not recommended for all cats. Exposure risk should be considered.
Note: A single dose of FIV vaccine will cause a false-positive test result on all commercial FIV tests.

Bordetella bronchiseptica
--Avirulent Live (non-adjuvanted)
(Intranasal only)

Administer a single dose as early as 8 weeks of age.

Administer a single dose.

Annually, but only in cats with established risk of exposure.

Note: Although vaccines licensed by the USDA are currently available in the United States, vaccination of cats against feline coronavirus (FIP) and Giardia lamblia is not recommended.

Not included in the 2006 feline vaccine guidelines.

Virulent Systemic Calicivirus
Killed (adjuvanted)
(SQ administration)

Administer 2 doses, 3 to 4 weeks apart beginning as early as 12 weeks of age.

Administer 2 doses, 3 to 4 weeks apart.

Duration of immunity is not known.
Annual booster is recommended by the manufacturer.

References

1.  Scott FW and Geissinger CM. Am J Vet Res 1999; 60:652.

2.  Compendium of Animal Rabies Prevention and Control, 2006. Available at: www.cdc.gov/mmwr/PDF/rr/rr5505.pdf.

3.  Lappin MR, et al. JAVMA 2002; 220:38.

4.  Mouzin DE, et al. JAVMA, 2004; 224:61.

5.  Meyer EK. Vet Clin N Am:Sm Anim Pract 2001; 31: 493.

6.  Gaskell RM, et al. Veterinary Products Committee Working Group Report of Feline and Canine Vaccination. 2002.

Speaker Information
(click the speaker's name to view other papers and abstracts submitted by this speaker)

Richard Ford, DVM, MS, DACVIM, DACVPM (Hon)
North Carolina State University
Raleigh, NC


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